A Life Lived: Lida Barnes, an old veteran who never gave up on life
It’s been said: “Age wrinkles the body. Quitting wrinkles the soul.”
Lida Barnes, who died April 3 at the age of 100, was never a quitter. She was still driving at 100 years, and to keep her from mowing, family members had to disarm the mower.
Lida was not one of those people who believed she was put here for a purpose, at least not one that she knew. She told a reporter interviewing her on her 100th birthday: “If there had been a purpose…I guess when I’ve fulfilled it, it’ll be my time. But I don’t know what that purpose is.”
Lida was a native of Butler and still enjoyed spending her springs and summers here. However, she spent much of her time in Emerald Isle, N.C., where she could be near her daughter, Pat.
Lida was the daughter of the late Capt. Thomas William Cable Sr. and Sallie Mae Reece Cable of Butler. She served in the U.S. Navy during World War II from 1943-45. Her military story was that her father was a retired Army captain and had a disability and couldn’t rejoin during war. Her brother had polio as a child and couldn’t serve. So, when World War II began, she wanted to keep the family tradition going and make a contribution to the war effort.
She didn’t like the khaki Army uniforms her father had worn and thought the Navy’s were more suitable. She graduated from college in 1942 and joined then what was called the Navy Waves in 1943.
At that time, women weren’t permitted to serve active duty. She started in a hospital in Bainbridge, Md., then was transferred to Navy headquarters in Washington, D.C.
She often said, “Our job was to replace a corpsman so he could be released for active duty, but I was proud to serve and make a small contribution. I did what I could to help.”
Lida served as a medical lab technician and while stationed in Washington, D.C., visited the White House to draw blood from one of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s grandsons, who was sick. She called it an honor and privilege.
When the war ended, Lida was discharged after three years, leaving as pharmacist mate, first class.
She went back to college and planned to be a dietician, but ended up with a career in lab work.
Lida’s daughter described her as very active, “a go-getter.”
“When she made her mind up to do something, she would usually figure out a way to do it,” said Pat.
She said her mother enjoyed traveling, and especially taking cruises. “She celebrated her 90th birthday with a cruise. She was in the hospital this past year right after Thanksgiving. Four days out of the hospital — the weekend before Christmas — she went to Dollywood,” Pat shared with a chuckle.
Lida was an avid reader. And, when she got interested in a book, there was no putting it down until she had completed reading it.
“It was not unusual for her to be up all night reading a book,” Pat said. Among her favorite authors was Nicholas Sparks.
She noted that her mother was also an excellent cook and seamstress. “When she was much younger, mother designed and made some of her clothes.”
Pat also confessed that her mother was a “chocoholic.”
“Mother ate chocolate every day. During the final days of her life, when a member of the Silver Angels came in to help, she told the nurse: ‘I’m supposed to have chocolate three times a day.’”
In addition to chocolate and traveling, Lida enjoyed sports and although she was a fan of the Tennessee Vols, the North Carolina Tarheels were her No. 1 team. Pat said her mother especially enjoyed March Madness and watching the NCAA basketball tournament on TV.
“She and my father in their earlier years did attend some football games,” Pat said.
Lida was married to Robert Barnes, who died April 3, 2007. She was also preceded in death by a son, Tom.
Lida was a long-time member of Butler Baptist Church and was a graduate of the Watauga Academy, and also taught there for a period of time. She also had memberships in the DAR and the Order of the Eastern Star.
“Mom loved people and her family. She enjoyed visiting with friends and having friends visit her. There were no wasted moments around her. She embraced each day and made it count. She always had a project going. We were blessed to have her 100 years,” Pat shared.
Lida was laid to rest in the Butler Memorial Cemetery. “Butler was home to her,” Pat said.
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